Sunday, 21 May 2017

South African Road Trip 2016; The Kgalagadi Park. Kieliekrankie, Bitterpan and Nossob

1/10/2016-It was time to leave the lush surroundings of River Place Manor in Upington, and we needed an early start as we were heading North again, into the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

goodbye Upington


I had booked the accommodation in the park through the South African Parks Board booking office 12 months prior to this trip. Even booking that far in advance I had not got what I wanted so we were doing an odd route. The park was known as The Kalahari Gemsbok Nation Park until 1999 when it merged with the Botswana parks to be known as the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park; the parks board also refer to the Northern Parks as The Arid Parks.
We were only staying on the South African side of the park, if you do want to cross into Namibia or Botswana as with any international crossing you do need a passport. All passport control is done at Twee Rivieren even if you exit the park into Namibia or Botswana.
The Kgalagadi is colossal, it is larger than many countries and one of the largest National Parks in the world. The Nossob river bed unites both side of the park and is the boarder between South African and Botswana.
We travelled from Upington to the park gates at Tween Rivieren via the dorp of Askham, the road was tar and straight, passing many salt pans on the way. At Askham we got fuel as we had been advised that the parks fuelling station was out of order.  Askham was odd, one filling station, one everything shop and a Booze shop; or Bottle Shop. People in their best dress were lined up at the cash machine getting cash, walking over to the bottle shop and getting alcohol, drinking it in one go and then were dancing in the street to very loud music emitting from a parked minibus - prostitutes were also in abundance! All I could think was that as it was Saturday was it payday?
Local transport in the far Northern Cape


Askham Trading Store

Askham Trading Store, it had everything



Askham Northern Cape
Dancing in the street in Askham
At Tween we checked in at the large parks board building. The roads to this point had been good, but now they  deteriorate and although the literature states you can stay on the South African side of the park with a two- wheel drive car I do not agree with this and think you would get stuck in the deep sandy roads.
Tween Rivieren Northern Cape
Tween Rivieren

Tween Rivieren Northern Cape

Our first night was in the Wilderness Camp of Kieliekrankie in a Dune Cabin. It was a little over an hours drive from Tween. The camp is perched on a high sand dune with views over the red surrounding dunes. The camp is unfenced and the units overlook a watering hole. Each unit has its own bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and Briaa area, you must bring every thing with you....there are no shops! I have seen on Trip Advisor complaints about Mice and Insects, FFS your in the Kalahari Desert if you want sterility stay in an All Inclusive in Spain.
Units at Kieliekrankie
Leopard Proof Entrance to the Units at Kieliekrankie

Units at Kieliekrankie

 Kieliekrankie

Units at Kieliekrankie

Kitchen in Units at Kieliekrankie




Bedroom in Units at Kieliekrankie

Bathroom in Units at Kieliekrankie

Deck at  Kieliekrankie
We had a comfortable stay at Kieliekrankie and saw a wild cat with a mouse in it mouth, except we thought it was a domestic cat at first, then though why would a domestic cat be out here! But that was all we saw, but for peace and quiet and an amazing sunset this was it!
The next day we had a very long drive to Nossob, to check into the trail taking us to the next wilderness camp, Bitterpan. This is only accessible with a 4x4 ( no trailers) the rout can only be travelled in one direction from Nossob to Mata-Mata. The drive was thrilling, real Dune bashing, we took 5 attempts to get up one dune and really didn't think we would make it but we did. The camp was small and overlooked a huge pan and there were 4 chalets, each with its own bathroom and a communal kitchen and boma.
Bitterpan Wilderness Camp

Bitterpan Wilderness Camp

 

Bitterpan Wilderness Camp

Bitterpan Wilderness Camp

Bitterpan Wilderness Camp

Bitterpan Wilderness Camp

Bitterpan Wilderness Camp

Bitterpan Wilderness Camp

Bitterpan Wilderness Camp
Again at Bitterpan we saw nothing- in terms of game, but were did get woken up by a Leopard on our roof!! We enjoyed a night of wine and good company round the fire and star gazing. Don't come to the Kalahari for night life unless its a campfire and star- gazing.
The drive out was not as challenging as the drive in, the roads were firmer. but we had to head to Mata Mata then double back to our next stop Nossob Rest Camp, home for the next 2 nights. We did see two Kalahari Black Mane Lions on this drive.
Nossob has 18 chalets, a shop, a hide and a swimming pool so is great for families and there were a lot of children at Nossob so it was a lively camp. Out Chalet had one bedroom with bathroom and a briaa area. The hide was amazing for bird life and we saw loads of kills at the hide all be it Hawks killing small birds.
Road to Nossob

Nossob Chalet

Swimming pool at Nossob

Dinner!



Saturday, 20 May 2017

South African Road Trip 2016. Clanwilliam - Namaqua National Park- Upington

29/09/2016- Today we were traveling on the N7 going North. The weather had been a bit variable till now, raining and very cold at times, as we travelled North it got warmer. It wasn't a great distance today just 320 KM, so about 4 hours, so there was no need to rush off. We had a filling breakfast at Bushmanskloof than got the car back. What a lovely surprise, It had been washed for us. But the guide pointed out the broken wheel inner arch, also it had been 'mended' with duck tape. We have had many other hire 4x4 from Bushlore and they have always been new models, and at the prices they charge the vehicles should be new. This vehicle was really quite old and worn looking, the cab was shabby and all in all it was showing signs of wear and tear. I was very disappointed that we had been given a Hilux in such a poor  condition as Bushlore were fully aware of the journey we were undertaking and the terrain we would be covering. 
As we passed over the Olifants River we entered the area known as Namaquland . As it was Spring we were hoping to see the famous spring flowers, but this botanical display does depend upon winter rain. According to the Flower Route Map printed by the northern Cape Tourism visitors to the region can experience one of the greatest flower shows on earth with an estimated 3000 plant species in the area. The flowers will bloom any time between July and September; so we were late! The Namakwa National Park is listed as a place to see them, and this was our destination.

During the drive I did spot a few flowers along the roadside; and a few Mearcats- but not the blooms carpeting the landscape so assumed we were to late in the season. However as we left the N7 and took the dirt road towards Namaqua National Park we drove through fields and fields of orange flowers it was spectacular.

Namaqua National Park

Namaqualand national park
Namaqualand daisies
We were staying in National Parks Accommodation, at Skilpad Rest Camp. There are 4 chalets and to book go through the SAN Parks reservations, ring them on the numbers given on the official SAN Parks web page as the web page only gives availability you don't seen to be able to book via the web site. It may take a long time to get through, but be patient as the accommodation offers value for money in some fantastic wilderness locations.  
Skilpad offers 4 chalets that sleep 2 adults and 2 children or 3 adults. there are 2 single beds and a sleeper couch. A veranda, dining area, bathroom . A kitchen - fully equipped- a fireplace that is also a briaa. A briaa area outside. You must bring all food, firewood and most importantly alcohol with you as there are no shops.

Skilpad Rest Camp

Skilpad Rest Camp


Skilpad Rest Camp

Skilpad Rest Camp

Skilpad Rest Camp


Skilpad Rest Camp

Skilpad Rest Camp


Skilpad Rest Camp
We spent the afternoon exploring the walking trails in the Namaqua National Park and just in amazement at the wild flowers. In the evening we gazed at the Milky Way in all its glory and then snuggled up with the fire as it was very cold. Parks such are this one are not as well known as the Kruger for instance, but if you are in the Northern Cape it is defiantly worth a visit. Cost; it was Rand 960 for the night, worth every penny and far better value than Bushmans Kloof!
30/ 09/ 2016- today we had another 4 1/2  hour drive. From Namaqua national park to Upington. The first stop was for fuel in the town of Springbok, this town was nestled in a few hills that looked like big boulders. then we drove on what must be one of the worlds straightest and  most boring roads in the world. We saw a lot of accidents along this road, some very nasty ones.

The N 14 in South Africa from Springbok to Pofadder

The N 14 in South Africa from Springbok to Pofadder

This area must be one of the worlds true wilderness, the town of Pofadder was a lonely, dry town located in a harsh wilderness, again this was a fuel stop and I had though that we would be able to get lunch, but the food on offer at the one petrol station was very poor and the bakery across the road was shut. I had a very greasy cheeses sandwich. The road continued as before until we got to the town of Alheit, here we turned off to call in at the Augrabies Falls.
The falls are located in the Augrabies National Park, and we had to pay the park fee to get in as well as the fee for being foreigners.  
Augrabies Falls are a waterfall of the Orange River. The falls are commonly cited as being 480 feet tall. In full flood, the Orange River fills the canyon below the falls - However the river was not in flood! and the falls were a trickle. I actually think the Man on the gate should have told us there was a drought and there was nothing to see. Anyway we had a cup of tea at the 'falls' and looked at the rock formations.
Augrabies Falls
 Back on the N14 we followed the Orange River  towards Upington. A bit like the Nile, the Orange river transforms the dusty orange landscape into a green strip, growing among other things fruit to be dried and sold all over the world, the area along the river is irrigated and fertile. As we approached Upington we were distracted by a beacon, this turned out to be Khi Solar One, Solar thermal power plant. It was very distracting and your eyes were drawn to it rater than to the road!

Khi Solar One seen from the N14 towards Upington;

The town of Upington is located on the banks of the orange River and we had prebooked accommodation for the night at River Place Manor.  It was ideal, a clean room located on the river with its own small restaurant, perfect for a good nights sleep.
River Place Manor, Upington.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

South African Road Trip 2016. Citrusdal to Bushmans Kloof Resort via Bird Island, Lamberts Bay.

I was so impressed with The Baths resort, that I was sorry that I had only booked one night. This was due to wanting to stay at the Bushmans Kloof resort; our next stop. The drive from Citrusdal to Clanwilliam; where Bushmans Kloof is located was only 60 KM, about 40 minutes on the N7, but we wanted so see a bit of the West Coast so drove on dirt roads via Lamberts Bay.
Driving from Citrusdal towards the West Coast, on the gravel R 365 we passed many farms. The farms were dedicated to Citrus trees and Rooibos plants. The area is known as the Cederberg, but we did see farms advertising themselves as part of The Swartland Wine Route. The area was beautiful and it was a great drive.
As we approached Lamberts Bay we saw the Muisbosskerm Restaurant located on the beach, here you can have a feast of seafood cooked on the BBQ, however you do have to pre-book, today it was quiet.

Lamberts bay was once a fishing town, with a large fishing fleet, it is now a popular holiday town that gets very busy in the summer.  We drove through the town, it was an outdated modern style and rather unattractive, We stopped for some lunch at the Funky Tasebuds Deli. It was a funky little place serving many snacks, or not really snacks as I had an the most enormous Springbok sandwich.
We had come to Lamberts Bay to visit Bird Island. We found it located behind a what I think was a potato factory, I think they were making French fries, or Chips in English.

Lamberts Bay Factory

Lamberts Bay Factory

Bird Island is a rocky islet that shelters the harbour of Lamberts bay, it is connected to the main land by a large concrete jetty.

The Jetty to Bird Island, Lamberts Bay

The Jetty to Bird Island, Lamberts Bay



Bird Island is an important breeding ground for Blue Eyed Cape Gannets. It also has a colony of Cape fur seals and White-Breasted Cormorants as well the Cape Cormorants. In the past; from 1888 till 1990, the island was used to harvest Guano.

There is a fantastic hide where you can see; and smell the birds, a vast colonies of  Gannets. There are information shelters dotted about with Whale Bones on display as well as the history of the Guano industry. It all looked a little run down, but was still an interesting attraction.
Bird Island, Lamberts Bay

Bird Island, Lamberts Bay




Bird Island, Lamberts Bay

Bird Island, Lamberts Bay



Bird Island, Lamberts Bay

The Hide Bird Island, Lamberts Bay


Bird Island, Lamberts Bay


Bird Island, Lamberts Bay





Bird Island, Lamberts Bay



We then drove back towards Clanwilliam on the R364 again this was a really scenic drive. Clanwilliam itself was in a warm valley and was a great little town or Dorp, with a massive Rooibos processing plant. It is here that the famous Rooibos Tea comes from and you can visit the factory, but I was unaware of both these facts and did not have time as we had to be at Bushmans Kloof by 1700 or the gates were locked and as it was getting late we didn't have time to linger.

Bushmans Kloof Wilderness and Wellness Retreat was our treat on this road trip, in fact the trip was based around this stay. It is billed as an award winning luxury retreat in the Ceaderberg Mountains. It is one of the top resorts in South Africa and has prices to match that fact.

We struggled to find it and it was not well signposted but we eventually found it, it is a good 40 minute drive on the R364, through the very spectacular Pakhuis Pass away from Clanwilliam towards Calvinia. We received an efficient but sort of warm welcome and were shown to our accommodation. This was a large room in a thatched Cape Dutch style house. The bathroom was massive, the room had under floor heating and was extremely comfortable. 
Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat

Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat





Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat

Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat





Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat . The rooms



The Rooms





The grounds were immaculate and the food was outstanding with the Afternoon Tea being a real highlight.


Our guide was a young man called Daniel and 2 night stay he took us on a tour of the reserve and to visit the Rock Art found in the area. We also did a self guided hike through the reserve clambering over the strange rock formations found in the Cedarberg and got quite lost! At least we walked off a few pounds!
Rock Art at Bushmans Kloof

Rock Art at Bushmans Kloof


 Bushmans Kloof
However a lot of the activities that are advertised by  Bushmanskloof and talked about were not offered to us, such are the star gazing,  biking and the Embers Braai. we were offered canoeing but it was to cold for getting out on the dam;  in truth we were just left alone and this sort of soured the stay a little. Maybe it was due to the time of year as it was too cold to swim and the pools were not heated, in fact it was very cold on the nature drives and the drives were a bit long. So I have mixed feelings about the stay at this lodge mainly due to the price we paid as I don’t think it represented value for money and whilst it was peaceful and picturesque I can’t get rid of the feeling I was ripped off!!